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indigo and shibori

the green turns blue before your eyes as it oxides

Summer.. mother nature at her best. Long sunny days, swimming in the cool sea, meals under the blue sky …

arashi shibori silk shawl – dyed with indigo

It also brings along vacation for the little ones, mine included. These early summer days have spoiled us, we have had sun filled days at the beach and spend much of our time these days outside. It is the perfect opportunity for me to work on some projects that can be done outside.

arashi shibori detail

Projects that can be picked up (or put down) at a moments notice, allowing me to pay attention to the needs of my children. Long days in the studio where attention to timing (ie.. light sensitive material) will have to wait.

arashi shibori before dyeing

For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am a reader. No… not a fiction reader, but a reader of reference books, how-tos, I read everything I can get my hands on regarding Crafts – not craft as in ‘get a glue gun..’, but Craft as in time honoured traditional techniques, skills passed on through generations. It is an addiction… and right now, my addiction leans towards Shibori. The myriad of styles and methods producing texture and pattern on fabric is quite simply overwhelming. I find myself reaching for a needle and thread whenever a spare moment strikes. The beauty of work such as this, is that I can create the resists and patterns by binding, sewing, clamping etc, and then leave the project until I am ready for a day of dyeing.  Dyeing is an art in its own right, there is so much to learn and try, especially with natural dyeing. I have been reluctant to do much dyeing for safety reasons do to pregnancies, breastfeeding and then little feet running around the studio. This summer now that my youngest is 4 and more independent, I have the perfect opportunity to play with colour. Outdoors with a nice breeze. (Safety note: natural dyeing does not mean safe. Read and learn everything you need to know before diving in and playing with chemicals.)

A few weeks ago, I set up my indigo vat in the garden. The beauty of the indigo vat is that if given enough TLC, it is always at the ready to give you its characteristic colour in the most incredible ways. Indigo is unique, both in it’s colour, as well as the technique. You can read more about indigo dyeing here.

Once you have a few projects ready for dyeing:

a variety of projects ready for the vat

and your vat is prepared (properly reduced). You need to remove the bloom (read:scum) that floats on top..

the indigo vat

and slowly dip your piece while making sure that as little air is introduced to the vat as possible. While it is immersed, gently massage it to allow the dye to penetrate evenly.

one of many successive dips in the vat

..when you remove your piece from the vat, it will be green, and after it oxidizes (gets exposed to air) it will turn blue right before your very eyes. In order to get a deep indigo, you need to repeat the process until you have achieved the depth of colour you are looking for. Remember: once rinsed and dried, it will be about two shades lighter.

undoing the clamps after 5 dips.. the unexposed areas remain white, with shading all around

These photos show a piece being made with itajime shibori, first it is carefully folded, then clamped. The blocks of wood create the resist pattern.

the green turns blue as it oxides

the reveal

and voila! an indigo dyed shibori silk shawl

indigo dyed silk roving and cocoons

stay tuned… for dyeing with cochineal next..


  1. I’ve been making a lot of shibori too. I find it fascinating. And reading and stocking books is an addiction as well…

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